Congratulations! You’ve successfully set up your own staffing business. Now you’ve got a growing team of recruiters and loads of work for them to get to.

But one very crucial thing this team needs is the motivation to do the work and take your business to new heights, and that’s hard (but not impossible) to instill in a startup. 

You’ll need more than just a story about changing the world. For a new business, driving motivation is all about compensation, bonuses, growth opportunities, and quality of work.

So, incentive structures are the most valuable tool for a recruitment entrepreneur like you to ensure that the goals of your organization and team are well aligned.

In this article, we’re discussing ways of setting up these structures for your recruiters so they never go a day feeling demotivated!

Why incentives?

Incentive Structure

When it comes to motivating your recruiting team, COMPENSATION is key. But, a fixed salary alone may not be enough to drive top performance. That’s where variable compensation or incentives come in. 

Compensation structures define the nature and culture of a business with respect to its competitiveness and aggressiveness. 

For example, if an organization does not pay incentives/variable pay, it will end up collecting employees who are risk-averse and who, though working sincerely, have no motivation to go the extra mile.

Such businesses do sustain but rarely flourish. You don’t want to be one of them. On the other hand, in organizations where a large amount of total compensation is variable, the employees are highly competitive and result oriented. Now that’s what you want for your business!

Let’s look at a couple of other major benefits of creating an incentive plan for your firm:

1. Winning the talent war

Your recruiters are the backbone of your recruitment agency, so it’s essential to attract the best candidates for your business. A competitive incentive structure will make your agency more appealing to high-performing recruiters, and mentioning this in job postings (across various platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, etc.) will help you attract high-quality job seekers to build a formidable team.

2. Boosting performance & efficiency

A well-crafted incentive plan encourages your recruiters to go above and beyond. When your team is driven by clear goals and rewards, they’re more likely to be efficient and effective in their roles. Additionally, by encouraging teamwork, sharing knowledge, and breaking down silos, organizational strategies can ensure that employees work cohesively towards common goals, leading to better outcomes and overall success.

3. Better employee retention & loyalty

A strong incentive structure not only attracts talent but also helps retain your best recruiters. By showing that you value their hard work and success, you foster loyalty and commitment to your agency.

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What types of incentive structures can you use?


Your incentive structure can be based on total revenue or profits. Let’s discuss this in some detail:

  • In case you choose a structure based on profits, be sure the employee has some control over the costs (at least the variable costs, if not the fixed expenses like office and salary expenditures). 
  • You could add costs of travel for business, use of certain software or similar tools, marketing expenses, etc., to arrive at a notional profit, which basically refers to an estimated or hypothetical profit figure that is used to calculate variable pay or incentives for employees.
  • Incentives can be a fixed amount or a percentage amount of the revenue or notional profits.
  • The incentive can be paid right from the first $ of revenue/profit earned or after a particular base figure achievement. Typically, a base figure achievement is to ensure that all costs are covered before you start distributing incentives.
  • You can pay the incentive as soon as it is earned or at the end of the financial year.
  • You can choose to add an accelerator (added amount of incentive) after the achievement of a specific target. This is to further motivate top performers.

Designing an incentive structure that works for your agency

1. Set your agency’s key performance indicators (KPIs)

First, determine which KPIs are most relevant to your agency’s success. Examples include:

  • Time to fill positions
  • Quality of hire
  • Offer acceptance rate
  • Retention rate of placed candidates
  • Cost per hire

By focusing on your KPIs, you can develop an incentive structure that aligns with your agency’s recruitment goals and drives the desired results.

2. Create a balanced compensation package

Incentive Structure

A well-rounded compensation package should include a mix of base salary, commission, and bonuses. Consider these elements when designing your incentive structure:

  • Base Salary: Offer a competitive base salary to attract top talent and provide a stable income for your recruiters.
  • Commission: Implement a commission system based on successful placements, new client acquisition, or a percentage of the placed candidate’s salary to incentivize performance.
  • Bonuses: Award performance-based bonuses tied to KPIs, encouraging your recruiters to exceed targets and achieve specific milestones.

3. Customize incentives for different roles

Your staffing agency may have various roles, such as sourcing specialists, recruitment consultants, and account managers. Each role may require unique incentives to drive performance. 

Consider the specific responsibilities of each position and tailor your incentive program accordingly.

5 best practices for implementing your incentive structure

1. Communicate clearly

Transparent communication is key to any successful incentive program. Ensure your recruiters understand the structure and how it aligns with the company’s goals. Provide regular updates on individual and team performance to keep everyone informed and motivated.

2. Offer non-monetary incentives

Non-monetary rewards as incentives

While financial rewards are important, consider incorporating non-monetary incentives as well. These can include:

  • Professional development opportunities
  • Recognition and awards
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Extra paid time off

By offering a variety of incentives, you’ll cater to different motivators and create a more engaging work environment.

3. Review & adjust regularly

Timely and regularly review your incentive structure to ensure it remains competitive and effective. You can rely on key metrics and feedback from your recruiting team to identify areas for improvement and make adjustments as needed. 

Continuously refining your program will help you stay ahead of the competition and foster a highly motivated team that’s dedicated to constantly improving your recruitment process.

4. Keep it fair & transparent

Fairness is crucial for the success of any incentive program. Make sure that goals and targets are realistic and attainable for all members of the recruiting team. 

Avoid setting quotas that favor specific individuals or creating an overly competitive atmosphere that could harm teamwork and collaboration.

5. Encourage a growth mindset

A successful incentive program should reward not only short-term success but also foster long-term growth and development. 

Encourage your recruiters to continuously learn and grow by providing resources, training, and opportunities for career advancement. This will contribute to a more engaged and committed team.

A recommended incentive structure (with examples)

Based on what we’ve discussed in this article so far, here’s a detailed incentive plan (with examples) to help you devise a structure for your team more easily and accurately.

1. Financial incentives

  • Base salary: Offer a competitive base salary, such as $50,000 per year, to attract high-quality recruiters and provide a stable income. Adjust this number according to your local market and industry benchmarks.
  • Commission: Implement a tiered commission system. For example, pay a 15% commission for entry-level placements, 20% for mid-level placements, and 25% for executive placements. 

You could also introduce a sliding scale based on the number of placements per quarter, such as 10% for 1-5 placements, 15% for 6-10 placements, and 20% for 11+ placements. Incentivize new client acquisition with a 5% commission for new business brought in.

  • Performance bonuses: Set achievable targets for KPIs like time to fill positions, quality of hire, offer acceptance rate, and retention rate of placed candidates. 

Reward recruiters who surpass these targets with bonuses, such as a $1,000 bonus for filling a position within 30 days or a $500 bonus for achieving a 90% offer acceptance rate.

2. Non-financial incentives

Incentive Structure

  • Professional development: Allocate an annual budget, such as $2,000 per recruiter, for attending industry conferences, workshops, or enrolling in online courses.
  • Recognition and awards: Establish a monthly “Recruiter of the Month” award, featuring the winner in a company newsletter and providing a small gift, like a $100 gift card.

3. Flexible work arrangements

Allow your recruiters to work remotely up to three days per week or offer flextime, enabling them to choose their work hours within a predefined range.

You can also offer your team additional paid time off (PTO). For example, reward top performers with an extra paid day off for each placement above a predetermined threshold, like 15 placements per quarter.

4. Customization for different roles

Tailor your incentive program to suit various roles. For sourcing specialists, offer a $250 bonus for each qualified candidate that receives an offer from a client. For account managers, provide a 3% commission on the total revenue generated from their managed client accounts.

This comprehensive incentive structure balances financial rewards and non-financial incentives while targeting key performance indicators. Implementing this plan will motivate your recruitment team, improve performance, and contribute to your agency’s success. 

Continuously review and adjust your program to ensure it remains competitive and effective in the ever-changing talent acquisition landscape.

Key considerations for crafting an incentive structure for your agency

Variable Pay

When creating an incentive structure for your recruiters, it’s crucial to account for factors that will impact its effectiveness and fairness. 

Below is a list of essential factors to keep in mind to help you design a successful incentive program that encourages collaboration and boosts performance:

1. Factors impacting incentive structures

Your incentive structure should be tailored to your agency’s unique circumstances, taking into account country-specific differences, agency size, job recruitment levels, and salary norms and levels.

2. Incentivizing the whole team

It’s essential to align the goals of business development and research teams with recruiters. For instance, offer business development team members a percentage of revenue (e.g., 5%) from clients they bring in for a set period (e.g., one year). If a recruiter is assisted by a research assistant, you can split the recruiter’s incentive with them (e.g., 2-3% from the recruiter’s 10%).

3. Avoiding common incentive mistakes

Incentive Structure Mistakes

Avoid making incentives a zero-sum game, where someone loses when another wins. Ranking and rating schemes can create unhealthy competition and discourage collaboration. Focus on absolute numbers rather than relative measurements when designing your incentive program.

Additionally, it’s best not to impose minimum performance requirements for incentives. A low base makes the incentive meaningless, while a high base may discourage effort. Instead, incentivize every dollar earned to keep motivation high throughout your recruitment agency.

4. Addressing low performance

In case a recruiter underperforms, promptly assess and address the situation. A well-designed incentive program minimizes the risk of maintaining a non-performing recruiter on your team.

5. Adapting incentives for leadership positions

As your team expands and includes team leaders or branch heads, consider introducing profit-based incentives. This approach is suitable for leaders with profit and loss responsibilities, as it ties their incentives to the overall profitability of their team or branch.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

1. What is the typical bonus structure for recruiters?

The typical bonus structure for recruiters is a performance-based system where they receive a percentage of the revenue they generate. 

This percentage can vary depending on the agency and the recruiter’s base salary, but it often ranges from 10% to 25% of the revenue earned from successful placements.

2. How do you incentivize recruiters?

To incentivize recruiters, you can implement a commission-based structure, where they earn a percentage of the revenue generated from successful placements. 

Additionally, you can introduce accelerators for achieving specific targets, offer non-monetary rewards, and provide opportunities for career growth and professional development.

3. How do you create an incentive structure?

To create an incentive structure, first, define the desired outcomes, such as revenue targets, client satisfaction, or employee retention. Then, decide on the type of incentives you want to use, like monetary rewards, non-monetary rewards, or a combination of both. 

Ensure that the structure is simple, transparent, and easy to understand. Finally, monitor and evaluate the incentive program’s effectiveness regularly, making adjustments as needed.

4. Do recruiters get an incentive?

Yes, recruiters typically receive incentives as a part of their compensation package. 

Incentives are designed to motivate recruiters to perform better and align their goals with the overall objectives of the recruitment agency. These incentives may include commission-based rewards, bonuses, and non-monetary perks.